Family Ministry Today

The Center for Christian Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

JDFM FORUM: A Discussion of Pastoring and Parenthood with Ken Canfield

by Edited by Lauren Foster – Oct 3

Randy Stinson: Tell us what we might do in our churches help pastors to be more effective as fathers.

Ken Canfield: When it comes to serving well as a pastor and as a father, first, you cannot get away from the fact that you do live in a glass house. Other children will tell their parents, “The pastor’s kids get to do this.” They will use that as a way to sway their parents. It’s very important for your children to know that there are times when you are closing the curtains, so to speak, and they can be who they are. The best time for pastoral leaders I have found, in interviewing and talking to their children, are vacations where you can go and reconnect with your child or with your spouse, not with church people or while attending a conference but time focused on reconnecting. … If you are a pastor, guard your family and children. If I were Satan—the one that the Scriptures also call a father, “the father of lies”—do you know what I would do to subvert work of God the Father? I would go after the households of the pastoral leaders and I would hammer on them and on their children.

A second thought for pastors: one capacity you may have that others in your congregation may not is flexibility of time. Recognize that many of your work hours happen at night or on weekends, and invest that flexibility of time in your children and in your marriage.

I recently analyzed data from 20,000 evangelicals related to the pastoral leadership. If there is a disruption—let’s say an affair—in the family life of someone among the church’s senior leadership, it has a profound and significant effect on the men, but not so much the women, in a congregation in terms of their own family life satisfaction. If you’re in a congregation where there is some real failure morally in the senior leadership, there is a significant influence that that leadership leaves behind on the families of the church.

Don’t fall prey to the notion that I hear so many times: “Look, the devil doesn’t take anytime off ! How can I take time off ?” Now, how wise is that really? Do you want your model for time-management to be the devil? If God rested, how much more do his people need to rest!

The Puritans said that the covenant is fulfilled not by having all of your children necessarily follow and become covenant bearers and recipients (although, obviously, they desired all of their children to follow Christ, as should we) but if even one child follows through. They knew the waywardness of man and woman.

Stinson: Does an emphasis on developing strong fathers undermine motherhood?

Canfield: Fatherhood that is coercive or authori- tarian can undercut a mother’s social and emotional influence—but that’s not the sort of fatherhood that is described in Scripture. When motherhood is rich and full of depth, the mother sees the value of fatherhood. She sees that she in her status and her husband in his are working together for the good and for the benefit of those children. Neither is better than the other.

The Puritans had this adage: “The mother of your child is your eye to see when you’re not there; she is your hand that touches; she is your voice.” In this way, the Puritans brought together motherhood and fatherhood in partnership.


Dr. Ken Canfield (Ph.D., Kansas State University) is the Executive Director of the Boone Center for the Family at Pepperdine University and the founder of the National Center for Fathering. He is the author of several books including The Heart of a Father (Northfield Publishing, 2006) and the award- winning Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers (Tyndale, 2002). He and his wife, Dee, have been married for over thirty years and have five grown children, several grandchildren, and live in Malibu, California.

[Editor's Note: This Forum originally appeared in the The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 2.2.  You can access a PDF version of this Forum here.]